You'll recall my periodic rants about cork taint, the unpredictable fungal infection that afflicts about 5 percent of wines stoppered with natural cork with the stench of a wet basement that's been ineffectively wiped down with Clorox.
But it's not always about wine. Dining out last night, I encountered 2,4,6-tricloroanisole (the jawbreaking chemical name for the stinky compound that seeps into wine on contact with a fungus-infected cork) in a completely unexpected setting. My wine was fine, but something seemed strangely funky about the salad. An odd, earthy, vaguely dirty smell was way out of place in an otherwise outstanding dish.
Suddenly it hit me ... the doggone salad was corked! Unquestionably TCA-afflicted, it had that unmistakeable dank, wet-cardboard and chlorine scent for sure. But how in the heck could a salad be corked? Then the light bulb popped on: Balsamic! Balsamic vinegar from a cork-stoppered bottle!
I pushed away the plate, shaking my head. I know all the arguments on behalf of natural cork. I've even preached one or two of them. But the more the evidence mounts, the more clear the reality becomes: The price we pay for natural cork is a failure rate that consumers would not tolerate in any other product. I'm not sure why we accept it in wine. Or, for that matter, in salad.
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Domaine de la Pepière 2004 "Cuvée Granit" Vin de Pays du Jardin de la France Marches de Bretagne ($9.99)
One of the most obscure wines I've tried lately, this offbeat but intriguing red blend from Marc Ollivier comes from the Muscadet region at the mouth of the Loire River, but it can't carry the name "Muscadet" because that's reserved by law for whites. Dark garnet in color, it's appealing and subtle, red-berry fruit and white pepper on the nose and palate, framed by stony minerality and mouth-watering acidity. Tangy red fruit, pepper and green tannins linger in a long finish. A varying blend of Loire red grapes that may include Cabernet Franc, Malbec (called "Cot" in the Loire), Gamay and Merlot. U.S. importer: LDM Wines Inc., NYC; Louis/Dressner Selections. (Aug. 28, 2005)
FOOD MATCH: It would go nicely with salmon or other oily fish or grilled chicken, and made an excellent match with a simple omelet stuffed with Gruyère cheese.
VALUE: The light, "green" and minerally style of Loire reds isn't for everyone, but if you like it as much as I do, you won't hesitate to grab this one for this price.
WHEN TO DRINK: Drink up within the next year, don't cellar.
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Public Service Announcement: "Chefs with Heart" in NYC
The 2006 Chefs with Heart is being held on May 9, 2006 at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York City. This "tasteful" event will feature 25 of Manhattan's leading chefs who will delight your palate with heart-healthy dishes created specially for the occasion. The wines for the evening have been donated by the Yountville Appellation Association of California's Napa Valley, representing 12 of the region's top wineries. The evening will also include a luxury "Wining & Dining" Silent Auction.
Guest tickets are $250; Patron tickets including a private tasting reception are $500. For more information contact Gina Heuck at firstname.lastname@example.org or +1-212-878-5905.
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Friday, Sept. 30, 2005